Election in Iran
The political landscape in Iran is characterized by a high degree of unpredictability, particularly during presidential elections. It was the first time that the presidential elections in Iran became a serious matter for the public when Mr Khamenei’s unapproved candidate, Mohammad Khatami, won with a surprising 20 million votes in 1997. The censorship and repression of writers and artists reached their peak during Mr Khatami’s tenure as Minister of Culture and Arts, but he won the presidency by becoming Khamenei’s hated candidate with the slogan of reform.
Ayatollah Khamenei has always considered voting to be a core indicator of legitimacy. Following the violent crackdown on protests after the election 2009, he called people for voting. He asked even if people don’t care about him and they don’t want him, but they should vote for “Iran” and reconciliation with the fund, he said. He later after election claimed that people by their votes just approved the policies of the rulers.
More important than the election itself was the effort to increase the vote. The rule of elections is that political factions must be able to compete against each other, which is not the case in Iranian elections. In fact, the approving oversight of the Guardian Council of the Constitution has changed the importance and meaning of elections in Iran. According to the law, only those who are approved by the Khamenei-selected council can run for president. These people must be men, Shiite Muslim and fully accept and follow the policies of Mr Khamenei himself as the Muslim leader of the country. As a result, women, as a half of the society, believers in other religions, along with the opposition (Obviously all different groups of Marxist-leftists), will not be able to candidate themselves. Parliamentary and municipal elections follow the same pattern. The main difference is that women and believers in other religions are subjected to fewer restrictions. In two words, elections are not Open and Free.
Even the most influential former officials protested that the election was unfair, and it was strange that they were not allowed to participate in the elections.
As an example, In his response to the protests in 2009, Mr Khamenei described Ahmadinejad’s policies as exactly his preferred policies, but his credentials weren’t confirmed after Ahmadinejad’s critical remarks in recent years. The former speaker of the Islamic consultative assembly, and Mr Khamenei’s special envoy for 25-year cooperation agreement whit china (Its contents were unclear to the government and parliament until agreement was signed), was not approved. This was never explained, and his brother, the former chief justice, strongly objected to the situation, but to no avail.
An attempt was made to increase participation by creating a dichotomy between the Khamenei-approved candidate and non-approved candidate. But, this strategy failed to work in this year.
After four years of ups and downs that made Iranian voters sad, a poll of Iranian citizens indicated that the 13th presidential election will be the lowest voter turnout. The spread of protests and bloody crackdowns (With more than 1,500 killed and thousands imprisoned) in the streets in the past four years has caused turnout to drop dramatically, from 72 percent of eligible voters in the previous election to 49 percent in this year.
The frustration of the people with the election option, election slogans, candidates and the inefficiency of the electoral institutions in front of the appointed institutions (in the hierarchy of power and decision-making) over the last 40 years has gradually made the Iranian people believe that this form of election can not meet their demands and solve their problems.
The death committee member becomes president
Mr Raisi’s entry into the election is similar to 1997, when all the possibilities were news of the victory of the candidate approved by Mr Khamenei, but with the arrival of Mohammad Khatami by claiming reforms, the situation changed. It is different from this period in that there is no indication of the presence of someone like Mohammad Khatami, and a candidate of such weight would have been unable to get past the Guardian Council’s filter. Raisi entered the election campaign without a rival.
Due to such circumstances, the election of this period was more of an intra-group competition between fundamentalists and moderate fundamentalists, whose most figures like Ahmadinejad and most important of them, Mr Ali Larijani, former speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, were disqualified.
Losing the political weight of the reformists is also crucial. It was due to Mohammad Khatami’s support for Hassan Rouhani that people voted for him eight years ago. However, Mr Khatami’s support had no effect this time. The logic of the people was clear: since Mr Rouhani failed to fulfill his main promises during his eight years in office, why vote again for this administration? Even when the wave of repression and killing on the streets is escalating?
Next, it is very impressive that 49% of the voters turned out in the elections. 28 million people boycotted the elections and refused to vote. The white votes, which accounted for about 5 million votes, must be added as a sign of protest. A protest by those who have to vote for various reasons, but do not consider the candidates eligible.
Under these circumstances, Raisi will leave his position as chief justice to move to Pasteur Street in Tehran to become Iran’s second-most powerful individual. He has no eloquence, no charisma, no independent political personality, but is a trustworthy obedient and with this election, the puzzles of full power were given to the fundamentalist movement, the parliament and the government were united, and the administration of most of the cities of Iran fell into their hands in the city council elections, and now the fundamentalists are happy with this victory.
However, the traces of Ibrahim Raisi can be seen in one of the most “frightening” moments in the history of the Islamic Republic and Iran’s contemporary history. As one of four members of the “Death Committee” in the 1988 executions, which thousands of political prisoners, mostly leftists, were executed or shot for not believing in God and on the Day of Judgment. 3,000 to 4,000 people are killed according to the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, although independent sources report 30,000 deaths. Most of them under 20 years old. The exact number of victims is not available, as no independent investigation is possible.
Generally, regime officials avoid any reference to those events, but Hassan Rouhani used public sensitivities in his previous election campaign to excite voters by saying: “Iranians will not accept those who have only known executions and imprisonment during the last 38 years… We will not accept those who have sat at the table and issued [death] sentences.”
Elections and promises
Among Raisi’s economic plans are fighting economic rents and corruption, building 4 million houses in 4 years, reforming the banking and foreign exchange system, creating one million jobs every year, reducing 50% of the health care, implementing a smart tax system, and preventing tax evasion. However, he did not announce any plans for financing the promises.
For more than three decades, Iran’s economy has been plagued by inflation. Iranian inflation has always been double-digits for the past three decades, except for brief periods. Furthermore, since the Iranian economy is experiencing incredible growth in liquidity as a result of the government’s constant borrowing from the central bank to fund budget deficits, there are effects on inflation and liquidity which increase over time. Among Iranian households, 55% are living below the poverty line, Mr Nasser Mousavi Largani, a member of the Economic Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, stated in a 2019 report. The number is still rising.
Raisi, is the representative of traditional Iranian capitalism, a fundamentalist Islamist who sees their existence in the shadow of belligerence and different crises, including economic and political sanctions, and hinders the freedom of political and ethnic groups in the country. A unique type of capitalism that has been built against the West, specifically Americanism. A mix of anti-colonial tendencies in the early and mid-20th century with Islamic ideology.
Raisi’s four-year plans show almost all of his focus and plans are on economic issues, specifically livelihood and corruption, and he has said and demonstrated that there is no other problem. Cultural issues, human rights, civil society, and rights of women, minorities, and ethnic groups are not on his agenda, or he has made very general and vague statements and promises, and in foreign affairs, he is a negotiator. Despite introducing the current negotiations, he criticizes them and prefers the negotiation policy of Qassem Soleimani: proxy wars for points.
Prior to the revolution, the government implemented a privatization policy by transferring shares to the workers and sharing in the profits of the factories as well as changing the way it approached industrialization across various fields. After the 79 revolution, with the passage of the wave of nationalization as well as the war, privatization and transfer of affairs to the private sector increased; the process accelerated after the establishment of the Privatization Organization in 2001, and the promulgation of Article 44 of the Constitution on July 2005 made privatization a general practice throughout the country.
In his economic speeches, Mr. Khamenei has always considered the implementation of Article 44 of the Constitution and privatizations as the main solution to the country’s economic problems.
However, the privatization process was highly opaque and unfair. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards won most government auctions because of their ideological strength. The authorities and many of their relatives took advantage of the lawlessness and lack of supervision. Iran’s economic sanctions and the need to circumvent them caused the de-facto private sector to become the main boss of the country’s economy over the past two decades, resulting in corruption and a reduction of laws protecting workers and employees.
In addition, the US sanctions under the Donald Trump administration have caused Iran’s economy to shrink sharply. The Rouhani government tried to control the money market with exchange rate stabilization, but this policy backfired, and the economic situation deteriorated. The people’s purchasing power decreased as inflation increased and the currency weakened.
The situation becomes even more complicated when a statement on defending President Ibrahim Reisi, issued shortly before the election, and signed by one hundred Iranian economists and academics. It is a harsh, contradictory statement supporting Ayatollah Khamenei’s “resistance economy,” (reducing government spending, raising the retirement age, reducing social services, intensifying privatizations to increase production, Reducing wages, reducing laws to protect workers and employees, etc.) while simultaneously blaming “neoliberalism” for economic hardship and advocating more government intervention.
These economists and academics, of course, make no reference to general policies over the past three decades. Raisi and the economists who support him do not go beyond general and repetitive slogans such as “direct liquidity to production” or “reform the banking system.” Rather than discussing the reasons for the collapse of trust in Iran’s business environment, he does not mention the effects of foreign policy on Iran’s economic interactions.
Thus, following three decades of economic stagnation due to poor management, corruption and economic sanctions, labor strikes and protests spread. Also, as the outbreak of coronary heart disease spread, many workers lost their jobs or were unable to earn a living due to low wages and rising inflation. The scope of these conditions even affected the workers of the oil and gas industry as the main source of income in the country and led to widespread strikes. Workers are protesting against problems such as poor living conditions, non-increase in wages, temporary contracts and lack of job security and safety in the workplace. Almost many other factories that have joined the strikes are complaining about the same problems, and there are protests almost every day in the energy sector, mines, municipalities, transportation, agriculture, and so on.
One of the most important labor protests of the past few decades was the struggle of the Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers, who succeeded in revoking the factory’s private ownership; however, the government and the judiciary, under the Mr Raisi administrative attacked the workers. Workers and their lawyers were accused by the judiciary of violating national security, and the government cut off the plant’s water and electricity under the pretext of debt. The situation is the same in many factories and mines in the country. For all these years, the government has done nothing to meet the demands of the workers and whole society except repress them and put pressure on labor activists.
The issue of economic sanctions and Iran’s nuclear program is also very important. To the regime in this situation, the simplest and most logical course of action is to accept the strategy of appeasing the Biden administration and stick to JCPOA’s (The agreement between the P5+1+EU and Iran) revival. Since the Biden government defends the JCPOA agreement and the Islamic Republic has no choice but to embrace it, almost all the experts both domestically and internationally predicted that the agreement would be revived soon.
The experts even speculated that a deal to revive JCPOA would be signed late in Rouhani’s administration, since a unified, fundamentalist government could take advantage of the opportunity by lifting sanctions and increasing trade with the US, the previous government (with claims to being neoliberal) is deemed ideologically responsible for the deal with the US.
To know all this, we must wait for the next few weeks. Ibrahim Raisi takes power in the current economic environment, and as in the past there is doubt that his claims can be true.